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There is a heated discussion that has been going on at NRC for the last few weeks. I thought it might be valuable to share it with you guys. And as my blog title suggests it is about ‘China Phones.’

As part of a research study I spoke to mobile shop owners in Bangalore as well as low-end mobile users about their shift from branded phones to the Chinese phones.

To give you a brief background, Chinese phones, as the name indicates are made in China. They are cheap, low-end phones and have become hugely popular in India over the last 4 years.

Branded mobile phone companies are losing a large number of customers everyday because they are switching to Chinese phones. According to a Chinese website, currently China phones have over 50% market share in India!

Now, what is so special about these phones that are making people switch?

Price

First and foremost, the Chinese phones are cheap! They cost less that 1/4th of what a branded phone would cost. If you compare a branded phone with certain features to a Chinese phone with the same features, the branded phone would cost up to Rs.16,000 whereas the Chinese phone would be Rs.1000! These prices lure in a lot of customers

Features for the Indian Context

They make cheap phones with features that are relevant to the Indian Market. Dual sims, loud speakers, durability, flashy colors. All these are features and qualities that users in India value and aspire for.

Chinese phones are jazzy!

They are flashy and they look good too! So they might be cheap but they don’t look it. As a result, people don’t mind owning them.

Chinese phones feed into the growing consumerism attitude of people. India has never had a ‘use and throw’ attitude. We are a country that ‘recycles’ and ‘re-uses’. We can find value in junk of any sort. In fact, Nokia had set up recycle units where customers were asked to drop off their old phones. The old phones never showed, because they were re-used to create other products in small, local markets! The invasion of Chinese phones have led to people buying mobile phones at low rates and discard them after 2 months of usage.

The interesting thing to note, is that Chinese phones do not come with a guarantee. They do not have customer care centers where one can get their phones fixed. Half the features that are available on the phone do not work. And most importantly, the mobile shop owners do not recommend the phones to their customers. In the words of a shopkeeper I spoke to

‘China phones ke kya guarentee hai, jab chae kharab ho jaaye. Par who ab market main chaa gaye hain! Aur be better karenge’

(Chinese phones have no guarantee. They can get spoilt at will. But, they have take over the market and will continue to do so.’)

All this really made me think. A generation back people who not buy a pen if it didn’t come with guarantee and now people are buying phones for use and throw. Phones were valued for their robustness and high quality just like other electronic products but now it seems that the superficial value, look and feel of the phone is preferred. The lure of this seems greater than the satisfaction of money spent on a product that would provide better service and last longer.

There are a lot more choices available in the market. People aspire for novelty and being up to date with what is the latest

With companies trying to design for the low end users. People are able to afford products at the much cheaper rate. And because these products are cheap they don’t discarding them after using them for a short period of time.

However critical and somewhat bleak all of the above might sound. I want to end this post with a bit of show! We get a lot of phones in our studio to test, to learn from and to play with. The latest one that I want to share with you is (are you ready for this!)

THE FERRARI PHONE!

How cool is this phone! Dual sim, camera, fm and very very loud sound (BUT of course, were we expecting a Ferrari to purr softly?)

The phone unfortunately does not work with an Indian sim card but I have to admit just turning it off and on (sounds like turning off and turning on a Ferrari engine) is fun!

Innovations that are fun, affordable and quirky- never fail to be desirable.

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